Friday, February 24, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 26, 2017

Over 124,000 readers worldwide

(Keep in step with the HOLY SPIRIT)
(Galatians 5:16-6:18)

   In the biblical Greek, the word used for “world” is “kosmos”, and it is from that word that we derive our English word “cosmos”. In the spiritual sense, it is that complex intertwining of sinful desires that shape our world of “lost humanity”.
    When we choose the “Christian Walk” we should automatically become strangers to worldly behavior. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the laws of GOD should become paramount to us. It is not until we fall in love with “goodness” that “wrong things” will no longer fascinate, and have power over us. Our relationship with GOD will then become our greatest asset, and by contrast, the person who loses his or her heart to the things of this world, becomes the person most vulnerable to satan.
    The end of all things earthly is near, for each of us, personally. For, that is the warning in the messages that the ancient prophets, and, the New Testament writers and thinkers, all leave us with. And those warnings are just as valid today as they ever were. In this day and age, both the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD, and the Bride (the true Christian Church) are beckoning us to come out of the world (Rev. 22:17), however, unfortunately, the lure of this world, and satan, are beckoning us to stay, and further indulge ourselves, with our own “sin nature”.
    The HOLY SPIRIT in us will always seek to compel us towards CHRIST, while the “sin nature” within us, will always try and tug us back toward the world. That battle that wages on inside of each of us, between “the reason to do right”, and “the passion to want to do wrong”, will continue to stay with us, long after we accept the gift of salvation. However, through our strength in CHRIST, we can ultimately overcome the “gravitational pull of this world”, just as CHRIST did, and find our place in “the ultimate happy ending” that has been prepared for us by GOD, since the foundation of this world.
    In Galatians 5, verses 16-21, the Apostle Paul advises Christians to choose to live their new lives in the HOLY SPIRIT, as opposed to returning to their old life of doing what their sinful nature dictates to the flesh. Here Paul gives us a “catalog of evil things” that we are to have “self-control” (“egkrateia”/eng-krat-i-ah) against, while yet living in this world. While certainly we have to exist in the world physically, we don’t have to participate in its Luciferic agenda.
    Contrary to the beliefs of most Christians, our call is not to try and “make the world a better place”, but rather, it is a call by GOD to, first, remove ourselves from the world spiritually, and then, help to extract others, leading them out of the darkness of this world and into the light of CHRIST. The world belongs to satan at this point, and this world, since the beginning has never improved from one generation to the next, not even during JESUS’ first advent.
    The earth is where GOD planted HIS “vineyard”, and HE entrusted mankind by giving him dominion over it. Man ceded it over to satan in the Garden of Eden, and caused sin and death to enter into the world. Since then, all throughout scripture, the analogy that GOD uses of the “vineyard”, is never mentioned apart from the idea of “degeneration”, which means, civilization has never gotten better, throughout all the ages, though many a man has tried.
    Down through the ages, man has failed to recognize what his one assignment from JESUS is, and that is “to draw other men from the world” that he has already given over to satan, and then, we are to “make them disciples of JESUS”. It is not until JESUS HIMSELF returns, that HE promises to make the world a better place (the Millennial Kingdom). That’s HIS job, not ours.
    Back in verse 1 of this chapter of Galatians, Paul reminded us that our “Christian Freedom” does not mean that we have freedom in indulge in the trappings of the lower side of human life, but rather, it is freedom to walk in the true life that can only be found in CHRIST JESUS, and, in our reliance on the power of the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD to guide us. Here in this passage (Vs. 16-21), every word that Paul uses in his list of evil doings has a very vivid picture associated with it.

·         Adultery” and “fornication”, for instance, is quite literally the opposite of chastity, which true Christianity requires from all of us as people made in the “spiritual image” of GOD.
·         Uncleanness”; Here Paul uses the Greek word “akatharsia” which describes the pus of an unclean wound.
·         Lasciviousness”; from the Greek word “aselgeia”, which means, readiness for any immoral, lustful pleasures, or, to be sinfully out of control. 
·         Idolatry”, which is the worship of anything, or anyone, other than GOD”.
·         Witchcraft”; it literally means the use of drugs, which in ancient times was a necessary part of sorcery.
·         Enmity”, the complete opposite of love, it describes one who is characteristically hostile to someone else.

    All together, Paul mentions no less than seventeen fruits of evilness that the “human sin nature” can easily cotton to. Anyone, who chooses to indulge in any of these “works of the flesh”, unless they repent, can never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Starting in verse 22, the Apostle Paul shares with us, a list of “lovely things” that characterize the “fruit of the SPIRIT”. The catalog includes;

·         Love,
·         Joy,
·         Peace,
·         Patience,
·         Kindness,
·         Goodness,
·         Fidelity,
·         Gentleness,
·         Self-control.

    The HOLY SPIRIT is the engine that drives the converted person’s “new self” in the opposite direction of their “old self”, away from their “sin nature” and the world. HE also produces in the converted person’s personality, the “fruits of the SPIRIT” that are mentioned here by Paul.
    These “GODly qualities” replace the “unGODly desires” for the “fruits of evil” that had previously “dominated the thought process and actions” of the now “converted person”. It then becomes the responsibility of that converted person to keep in step with the HOLY SPIRIT (Gal. 5:25). He or she must then “live by the SPIRIT”, and “be led by the SPIRIT” responding only to HIS promptings, as HE seeks to guide our decision-making in every area of our lives. We must, in our hearts, show our reliance on the SPIRIT, and our confidence in “doing what we know to be right”. Our lives will then no longer be marked by our sinful acts, but rather, it will be marked by the deeds of one who is submissive to the SPIRIT of GOD.
    In Paul’s final advice to the Galatians in chapter 6, verses 11-13, he points out to them that he is closing out his letter in his own handwriting, and not that of his personal scribe. He again stresses some of the issues that he had previously discussed in this letter. These final words contain both a summary, and, advice on how to proceed in the future, as far as their dealings with detractors are concerned.
    Detractors and false teachers, for the most part, go along with the program of man, either because they fear persecution from man for teaching the truth of GOD’s word (in other words they are cowards), or, because they are more interested in “glorifying themselves” by influencing people to “follow them”, instead of following CHRIST.
    “True men of GOD” refuse to boast about anything except what JESUS CHRIST did on the cross, in order that HE might save us from eternal damnation. Paul says that “it is because of the cross that his interest in the things of this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in him died along with it (v.14).
    When we choose the Christian Walk, it is the “circumcision of the heart” that becomes paramount, not the “physical circumcision” of the male’s sexual organ. If that was the key, then women would be blocked from salvation. What really matters is whether we really have been changed into a new creature because our “heart”, (“kardia” in the Greek, which means “our thinking”) has been changed to the thoughts of “the things that are important to GOD”, and away from those “things that are important to the world” (v.15).
    Paul’s body bore the scars that served as evidence that he belonged to CHRIST JESUS. And if we are to follow JESUS’ example as Paul did, we too, can only follow that example by “going through the cross” (suffering for the cause of CHRIST JESUS). GOD expects us to suffer for the faith we say we hold, until we can began to believe in our thinking (heart), that we really do hold it. GOD, WHO knows all things, knows through HIS infinite wisdom that, if our faith costs us nothing, then, we are in danger of valuing it at “nothing”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, February 17, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 19, 2017

Over 123,000 readers worldwide

(Stand firm in CHRIST)
(Galatians 5:1-17)

   Whenever we turn to the LORD, the “veil” that prevents us from understanding the truth is removed. Our minds are no longer hardened, and so, now we begin to perfectly understand the things of GOD that we had previously failed to comprehend. This veil can only be removed by the “SPIRIT”, whenever we start to believe in the “Risen SAVIOR”, JESUS CHRIST.
    “And now the LORD is that SPIRIT, and wherever the SPIRIT of the LORD is, there is “freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Everyone who has had the veil removed can now be “free” to be the mirror that brightly reflects the glory of the LORD. And as the SPIRIT of the LORD works within us, we become more and more like GOD, and reflect HIS glory even more to others in the world, through our behavior.
    Here in Galatians chapter 5, verses 1-15, Paul reminds the Christians at the Church in Galatia of their newly found “freedom in CHRIST”. He encourages them to remain free, and to not get tied up again in the “slavery of the LAW” (v.1). The Christian life is a life apart from law and license, and it is, instead, a life lived according to the SPIRIT. To turn to the law does five things Paul says, and they are all negative to the Christian Believer;

·         It ruins grace (Vs.1-2)
·         It makes a person a debtor (v.3)
·         It causes one to fall away from grace (Vs.4-6)
·         It blocks the progress of those who believe (Vs.7-10)
·         It nullifies the purpose of the Cross (Vs.11-12)

    The Galatians, who had been influenced by the “false teachers” who had infiltrated the church since Paul had left the area, had begin to rely on “circumcision” and other Jewish rituals and observances to make them “right” with GOD, instead of relying on their faith in CHRIST. They did not realize that, by doing these things, they were actually “cutting themselves off from CHRIST, and thereby, from GOD’s grace (Vs.2-4).
    In the Greek, the word “apokaradokia” is the term used for “earnest expectation”, or “hope for the future”. We, who live by the SPIRIT, eagerly anticipate “the first signs of the coming of the glory of GOD” (CHRIST’s return). We look with “high expectations” to receive everything that GOD promises those who are right with HIM, through our faith in CHRIST. When we place our faith in CHRIST, it makes no difference to GOD whether we are circumcised or not. What is important is that we have an undying faith that expresses itself through “love” (Vs.5-6).
    Paul warned that it takes only one person to infect all the others (v.9) in the church, and he said he was trusting in GOD to rescue them back to the right path. He knew too, that, GOD would judge those responsible for leading the church astray by confusing the people and mixing the “holy with the profane” in the church, in word, thought, and, in deeds (v.10). 
    The Gentiles in the church at Galatia needed to realize that the Jews were persecuting Paul because he preached against the doctrine of Judaism, which supported the belief in the law and good works. He was never a component of “circumcision” for Gentiles, which was a religious rite that GOD charged only to the Jews, and no one else.
    The “freedom” that Christians are called to, is not the freedom to satisfy our “sin nature”, but rather, it is the freedom to satisfy the “nature of GOD” that is within us, by serving one another in love. Paul says that the whole law of GOD can be summed up into one command; “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It is high time that we become aware of how we’re destroying each other by choosing to live in the prison (world) that is, outside of CHRIST JESUS.
    We as Christians must learn to live according to our new life in the HOLY SPIRIT, and when we do that, we won’t be doing the things that our old sinful nature craves. Our old sinful nature, that we accepted into our lives the moment we first disobeyed GOD, at an age of accountability, loves to do the evil works of satan. Those works are exactly the opposite of the works of the HOLY SPIRIT, which mirrors GOD, exactly. Those two forces are constantly battling each other inside of us, causing all of our choices to never be free from conflict.
    When we allow our choices to be directed by satan, we put ourselves on a dangerous path of destruction. However, when we allow the HOLY SPIRIT to direct us, we put ourselves on a path that leads to eternal life with GOD in Heaven, and as a result, we are no longer subjected to the restraints of the law. In other words, we no longer seek to obey GOD as a matter of obligation, but rather, we choose to obey GOD because we greatly desire to, because it is “right” and “good” to do so. Therefore, it becomes an “attitude change”, which leads to a “lifestyle change” that is compatible with GOD, right now, while we live here on earth.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, February 10, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 12, 2017

Over 122,000 readers worldwide

(Letting go of those things that hinder your relationship with GOD)
(Galatians 4:8-20)

   In verses 8-20, we see the Apostle Paul’s deep concern for the Galatians, who, not long ago, were literally slaves to “pagan gods” that did not exist in the natural sense. And now that “they had found salvation in the real GOD” (now that they know GOD on a personal level), or more specifically, “now that the real GOD had gracefully given HIS salvation to them”, they seemed to be “falling back” (backsliding) into the clutches of those same weak, spiritual forces that they had just left behind, or, ridded themselves of.
    They were also, at one and the same time, trying to win favor with the “true GOD” only by adhering to the “Jewish calendar” of ritual celebrations and observances such as “Passover”, “Pentecost”, and the “Tabernacles festivals” (in the Law of Moses). They, like many people today, think that it is possible to worship GOD in the truth of HIS Word while they still maintain a lust for the spirit of this world.
    Salvation from man’s perspective is that “he has found GOD” (confession with the mouth), however, salvation from GOD’s perspective is that “HE has found us” (when we accept HIM in the heart) (Vs.8-9). In verse 8 Paul tells the Gentile believers that they were slaves to false gods before they discovered the “Real GOD”, or rather, “the Real GOD found them”. He then asks (v.9), “Why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual powers of this world?”
    Like many “professed” Christians in today’s society, the Galatians were trying to endear themselves to GOD by going to church, or worship services (playing church) for a couple of hours every Sunday, or every Sabbath day, while all through the remainder of the week, they ignored GOD completely, by way of their worldly behavior, and lifestyles. However, true Christians know that true worship of GOD can only be exemplified in our day to day and actions, attitude, and behavior.
    Paul had become concerned that all of his “hard work” and teachings about CHRIST JESUS meant nothing to the Galatians. In verse 11 Paul uses the Greek term “kekopiaka eike” which means “to labor to the point of exhaustion, in vain”. Paul wanted to know, “Where was the zeal for CHRIST, and the love and care that they had shown him” when he first brought them the Good News, while on his first missionary journey with Barnabas?
    At that time, even though Paul was very sick with an unnamed revolting, dreadful ailment, the Galatians did not reject him because of it, but rather, they treated him, and cared for him as though he were an angel, or even, CHRIST HIMSELF. Now, however, they were treating him as if he were an enemy, because he was teaching them the same truth that he had introduced them to on his first missionary journey (Vs.13-15). 
    To live in CHRIST is to be “free” from the gravitational pull of this world, and that does not just mean free from the lure of the things of the world (idol gods, ungodly people, etc.), but also, it means to be free from the bondage of sin and death (permanent separation from GOD), and, free from the condemnation of the Law (V.12).
    The false teachers who had followed Paul and Barnabas into Galatia had apparently won many of the Galatians over. And now, upon writing this letter, Paul felt as though he was going through “labor pains” all over again, needing to de-program the Galatians, to get them back to the “right teaching” that they had originally experienced and accepted from him.
    Paul, no doubt, felt that the Galatians needed to be released, once again, from the spiritual chains of sin and death that had formerly bound them to the world. And, he also felt that he had to try and extricate them, once again from their path of destruction, with the only weapon he had, besides GODly behavior, which came in the form of the words of this powerful letter. 

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 


Friday, February 3, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 5, 2017

Over 122,000 readers worldwide

(GOD’s children are heirs through faith, not through pedigree)
(Galatians 3:24-4:7)

   Throughout the Apostle Paul’s ministry he often returned, again and again, to the same point; The solutions to the enigmas of human life has always been, in having and maintaining an experiential relationship of friendship with GOD, and, in having continued faith in GOD.
    GOD’s covenant with Abraham was made possible because of his faith in GOD and not because of his obedience to the law. This is true simply because the Law of Moses, at that time, did not yet exist. And even after Israel was introduced to the Law by GOD’s servant, Moses, it served only as a guardian and teacher, guiding us until JESUS CHRIST came. And now that HE has come, our salvation lies solely on our faith in HIM.
    Now, as believers, we no longer need the Law as our guardian, because now, the HOLY SPIRIT guides those who believe in CHRIST JESUS (Vs. 24-25). We are children of GOD, only through our faith in CHRIST. Symbolically, when we become one with CHRIST in baptism, we are made like HIM, and are expected to emulate HIM through our behavior and actions, at all times. And so, whether we are Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, or, male or female becomes totally irrelevant.
    When we belong to CHRIST, we become the true children of Abraham, and we also become the heirs to all of the promises that GOD gave to him (Vs. 26-29). In Galatians chapter 4, verses 1-7, Paul continues to expound on the point that we are children of GOD only through our faith in CHRIST.
    In first century Israel, the process of growing up was far more definite than it has ever been in American life in this, or any other century. Back then, on the twelfth birthday of a Jewish male, his father would take him into the synagogue, and on that day, the boy would become a “Son of the Law”, after certain religious oaths and rituals were performed. He would then, quite literally, become responsible for his own actions before GOD. There was then established, a clear boundary line between the boy that was, and the man that now is. Literally overnight, the boy became a man.
    When the male was under the age of twelve, he was a mere child in the eyes of the Jewish Law, and therefore, under the rule, or dominion, of the laws of his parents. But when he became of age, he was freed from under their rule, and became fully responsible for making his own decisions, and, could also claim his inheritance from them.
    That’s how it was with us before CHRIST came. We were under the spiritual rule of this world, literally slaves to sin. But when GOD sent CHRIST to be born of woman into a world of sin, and subject HIMSELF to the Law as a 100% human being, HE also represented for us, the one and only chance we had to be freed from under the dominion of sin, death, and the Law.
    As a 100% human being, JESUS perfectly obeyed the laws of GOD, simply because HE shared GOD’s “nature”, just as all human beings do, even before the HOLY SPIRIT ever descended upon HIM at the River Jordan, following HIS baptism by HIS cousin, John the Baptist. At that point, HE had already lived a perfect life for 30 years, and HE obeyed HIS FATHER GOD completely, simply because it was HIS natural desire to do so. In other words, JESUS proved, quite literally with HIS own life, that we, as human beings, don’t obey GOD simply because we don’t desire to do so, and not, because we can’t help it!
    JESUS, through HIS vicarious sacrifice, made it possible for all mankind (Jews and Gentiles), to be adopted into the family of GOD (if they choose to), as HIS very OWN children. And thus, believers can voluntarily choose to become heirs to everything that CHRIST HIMSELF has, just as well as they can choose not to accept HIS inheritance, and to instead, opt to continue to meander along the road to destruction.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander